Three directions of internal communication to improve

There are 3 directions and 4 levels of internal communication. First, let’s focus on the directions and to get to know more about the levels, visit my blog soon.

Among these 3 directions, especially 2 of them often appear problematic in IC audits I do for my clients to assess the internal comms in their companies.  

So let’s go back to the theory of IC. We can specify 3 directions here. Each of them is important and should be well organised in your company. If you take care of only one type of these directions in your everyday work, an alarm light should appear in your head. As IC professionals we should take care of all of them, develop them and plan appropriate actions in all these 3 areas.  

3 directions of internal comms

1. top-down communication – it’s the communication from the management (usually from the top management, but it can also be from any supervisor) to the employees. It goes from the top or a higher level to the lowest level of the company structure. Good examples of top-down communication are town hall meetings, when the board speaks and the employees listen without the possibility of asking questions or an intranet, when we publish important news, such as explanations of the decisions taken by the board.  

Only this kind of communication – meaning a monologue from the top – is insufficient. It’s like watching TV or listening to the radio without the possibility to answer back. The employees can only receive a message. It’s definitely not what internal comms is about. The basis of communication is a dialogue.  

While working with companies I can observe how much effort and attention is paid to this direction in everyday communication. I often see the IC professionals working very hard on developing this direction of comms (especially from the top management). Usually the companies I’ve cooperated with have many IC tools to organise this top-down direction well. But it’s not enough. It's high time to spend more time and energy on the other two directions as well. 

2. down-top communication – it’s the reverse direction of internal communication. The employees who are at the bottom of the company structure provide information to the top level. And it’s a key to successful internal communication, because we have chances for a dialogue here.   

But even if this communication exists in your company, it can’t be only about sending messages from the bottom to the top. The (top) management must hear and listen to these messages and then implement changes concerning them. It’s not only about talking, but about talking and listening to each other.   

Unfortunately, my experience tells me there are many problems concerning this down-top comms in your companies. We do a lot in this field, e.g. we organise IC audits or other kinds of research, we have question boxes or meetings where our employees may ask questions, we remind our management about the importance of giving regular feedback, we implement idea boxes and other solutions to improve this direction of internal comms. But, unfortunately, as I often hear from you, the process often ends with collecting the questions put into the question box. Nothing happens with these questions or ideas delivered by the employees or not much goes on with them afterwards. So the companies listen and hear their employees' voices (spend time, energy and money on it as well), but they don’t do anything with the received information.  

It may be because the receivers don’t believe the senders may be right or that they are competent or qualified enough to provide meaningful and proper ideas. It’s a huge mistake and wasted potential and skills of the employees who are in the middle of all the company processes and often know what to change to improve them. It’s like treating the employees like a simple workforce without hearts or minds. 

3. horizontal communication – the last element is the horizontal communication among teams, employees, factories, branches, departments, and also 1:1 communication. We have tasks, projects and everyday cooperation here. This is the main direction of internal communication in everyday business.  

And in almost all of the IC audits I’ve done for your companies I found this direction most problematic. It’s the weakest point in the comms. I recommend analysing this direction carefully and taking care of it strongly. Here is our everyday work and communication. Without it the whole communication concerning projects and tasks won’t work and if it doesn’t work, the business suffers a lot.   


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